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British Doctors Council Votes To Decriminalize Abortion

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Grace Carr Reporter

Great Britain’s official council of doctors voted on Friday to support no fines or prosecution for women who have abortions.

The council supports getting rid of a British law that states a woman who has an abortion without getting the permission of at least two doctors — and anyone helping the woman either have or access the abortion — can be sentenced to life in prison, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) explained a summary of the vote, according to The Guardian.

“We believe the procedure should be subject to regulatory and professional standards, in line with other medical procedures, rather than criminal sanctions,” the RCOG wrote in a Friday statement. “Abortion services should be regulated. However, abortion – for women, doctors and other healthcare professionals – should be treated as a medical, rather than a criminal, issue.”

The council has asked U.K. officials to repeal sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861, which mandates sentencing women who have abortions.

Changing the council’s statements is unlikely to affect abortion practices in Britain.

Abortion pills can even be purchased online and administered without a doctor’s help.

A 1967 abortion law legalized abortion in England, Scotland and Wales. In Northern Ireland, abortion remains a crime and the RCOG’s vote will not affect the country.  (Related: Scotland And Wales Will Offer Free Abortions To Women From Northern Ireland).

Not all doctors in the U.K. are on board with the change in abortion recommendations. “We all expect to be protected from external threat and damage to our bodies under the criminal law; the potentially sentient foetus should be afforded similar rights,” said Dr Kiran Eyre, a regional council member. “Decriminalisation is a radical step that cannot be reconciled with our principle of non-maleficence as the evidence currently stands.”

The U.K. should seek to protect both mothers and their unborn children, Eyre insisted.

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